GRAND HOTEL DE DRAAK | Bergen op Zoom

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Over a month since we last had a staycation, another hotel popped up online that looked worth the effort to try out. The oldest hotel in all the Netherlands is in Bergen op Zoom, and like wandering magi we were able to stay for a night last weekend.

Unmissable on the Grote Markt close to the main church and standing right next to the old city hall, it’s in a prime location any hotel operator would find enviable. In these unsure times, anything to stand out in the crowd helps and being as accessible to as many people as possible is the best thing to hope for – given the right price that is. So it was with anticipation that I hoped for a good first impression. We got a mixed bag unfortunately and sad to say the 600-year old ‘Dragon’ in the beginning came up short.

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Owing to that small city affordability factor, we went ahead and booked a suite and maybe prematurely expected one. After the 90-minute drive to Bergen and eventually finding the hotel’s tricky, hidden parking lot, we were face to face with an attractive, well-maintained historic hotel on the very quiet grand square. Surprisingly they had a reception desk that wasn’t up to snuff – no-nonsensely modern and perfunctory but was manned by pleasant staff who seemed to know what to do.

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We benefited from an early check, went to the room and for a second stood slack-jawed, any goodwill from getting a room earlier than usual washed away by the mediocrity in front of us. Greeted by a lackadaisical view of townhouse roofs at the back of the building, we were given one large room – not the definition of a suite – that lacked character it was better-suited for a Holiday Inn, and definitely not that of a Grand Hotel. It did have a bath though. After showing incredulity when the receptionist confirmed we did indeed get a suite (it’s the same size of a suite, she said), we went to have our much-awaited lunch that offered only Michelin-level dining, an approach that seemed to dismiss that we are in the midst of a pandemic, which of course added to Teko’s visible and audible disappointment.

Luckily, while we were sitting for lunch, the same reception staff saved the day by offering us the choice of moving, offering us not one but two other rooms – real suites this time – to choose from. Consequently we still had a backside view from our room but it wasn’t as bad, a separate sitting area this time, a large bed, and the much-requested bath. From then on it was smooth sailing.

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Lunch that day and dinner that night were sheepishly on the indulgent side, overly so if we weren’t already in the holiday season. Surprisingly the next day there was a buffet spread for breakfast – what pandemic? – that was above expectation if not a bit disconcerting.

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It was a long-thought out process to get there, with a lot of if’s and but’s, that ultimately became a mini-break come true. The final verdict given our predilections is that the four-star Grand Hotel de Draak was on the onset wanting, quick enough to act when necessary, for the most part satisfying, and when all was paid and done, from the staff to the meals to the suite, proved to be a worthwhile experience. While the idea that a hotel can date all the way back to 1397 is mind-boggling, for any 14th century inn to morph into what is now a grand hotel is an achievement that can also be considered superlative, and an experience we’re lucky to have been part of.

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